TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s 52-8 win over Charleston Southern on Saturday allowed coach Jimbo Fisher to get an extended look at the talent he has waiting in the wings. Freshman guard Landon Dickerson surprised by starting at right guard in place of the injured Wilson Bell. And freshman defensive end Brian Burns took advantage of a heavy workload in the second half to finish with team-highs in tackles (five) and sacks (two).
All told, the participation report for the game shows that 16 true freshmen played against the Buccaneers, all but six of the 22 freshmen that FSU signed in February.
It was a bit of a coming-out party for Burns, a 6-5, 218-pound Fort Lauderdale native who was one of the most talked-about players of fall camp.
“Brian Burns, you can see the ability in there,” Fisher said.
“He’s just elusive. He has a good first step,” senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker said. “He’s just a very good outside rusher.”
Walker then stopped for a smile and said:
“Still not better than me, though.”
Maybe not, but, like all of the freshmen on the field Saturday, Burns still has plenty of time to develop.
That also holds true for freshman running back Amir Rasul, who, despite playing behind star Dalvin Cook and veterans Jacques Patrick, Ryan Green and Johnathan Vickers on the depth chart, managed to finish as FSU’s second-leading rusher on Saturday.
A high-school track champion from Miami, Rasul carried six times for 46 yards and ripped off a 21-yarder in the fourth quarter.
“I really liked Amir Rasul,” Fisher said. “You see why I like Amir – he hit that thing hard now, running downhill on those runs.
Fisher said he’d wait to see the film to offer a full evaluation on Dickerson, but he believed Dickerson was “pretty solid” in his debut.
Other true freshmen to see the field Saturday include receiver Keith Gavin, center Andrew Boselli, defensive tackle Cedric Wood, linebackers Josh Brown, Dontavious Jackson and Emmett Rice and defensive backs Levonta Taylor, Carlos Becker and Kyle Meyers.
A host of redshirt freshmen and one junior college transfer – defensive lineman Wally Aime – played as well.
Freshmen continue to put their fingerprints all over FSU’s special teams, too. Ricky Aguayo made his only field goal attempt of the day to improve to 7 for 7 on the season, and Logan Tyler averaged 51.0 yards on two punts. Tyler also booted six touchbacks off of kickoffs, including a few that wowed that crowd by going through the uprights.
Fisher jokingly knocked on his wooden podium when asked about Aguayo’s early success.
“I think when you are out on the field and the lights are on and you do it, then I think you realize you can, and you start to relax and your true talents come out,” Fisher said. “And hopefully he will keep doing it.”
Wilson relishes big return
Florida State hadn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since Tyler Hunter did it against Duke during the 2012 season.
So it’s been a while.
No surprise then that the Seminoles felt that Jesus Wilson’s 89-yarder for a score on Saturday had been a long time coming.
“We said, ‘Finally,’” junior receiver Travis Rudolph said. “I feel like Bobo can return one every time if he has the right blockers.”
Even though he fielded the ball deep in his own territory, Wilson realized he had a chance for a nice return when he looked up and didn’t see any defenders within 10 yards.
In other words, CSU punter Truett Burns had outkicked his coverage.
That allowed Wilson to accelerate to top speed before a Buccaneer had a chance to lay a finger on him.
Turns out that none did anyway – Wilson weaved his way through the CSU coverage unit and was untouched on his way to the end zone.
“I saw it open,” Wilson said. “I knew my corners had the gunners. I knew they had a block and the gunners were 10 yards from me, so I knew I had a chance.”
Wilson’s return is a welcome development for an FSU punt return unit that was underwhelming for much of last year. The Seminoles in 2015 averaged just 3.74 yards per return – good for 115th nationally – and Wilson’s lone attempt in last week’s win over Ole Miss went for minus-six yards.
“That was one of our goals – to give him room to make the run,” Fisher said. “And he’s a talented guy. …Nobody can be a good punt returner if they’re standing on top of you.”
Injured Noles on the mend
Although they couldn’t play Saturday, Fisher was optimistic about the returns of starting linemen Kareem Are and Wilson Bell. He said Bell (ankle) could have played in an emergency, and he hopes Are (concussion) can return to practice Monday. The Seminoles also got good news up front on Saturday when sophomore Cole Minshew returned to the lineup for reserve duty. Minshew had missed much of fall camp with concussion-like symptoms.
“We’re going to need them,” Fisher said.
Elsewhere, quarterback Sean Maguire was in uniform and participated in warm-ups, but Fisher opted to give the fifth-year senior another week off as he continues to recover from foot surgery. Third-year sophomore J.J. Cosentino subbed in for starter Deondre Francois in the second half and completed one of his three passing attempts.
The biggest injury development, though, was that of safety Derwin James, who left in the second half with a left knee injury.
Fisher didn’t have an update on James’ status, but he did answer anyone who questioned whether James should have been on the field for the second half of a lopsided affair.
A short week of practice meant limited reps for FSU’s defenders, and, with Louisville looming next week, Fisher wanted them to get as much live action as possible. He pointed to a blown coverage that led to a touchdown as evidence that his starters – including James – needed more work.
“You can second guess yourself all day, but that can happen walking down the street,” Fisher said. “And I’m sad it happened, if it happened, I mean getting injured.
“We don’t know what the extent is and maybe he’s OK.”